I put up a lot of lace edging patterns here, but I know not a lot of y’all have the interest in garment sewing that I do, so making edgings is less appealing. However, strips of lace have other uses: you can make a headband, a necklace, or a bracelet, to name three. For my choker pattern, I used ordinary brass findings from the beading section of my local craft store, but it’s always nice to have other options, and in the interim I thought of a way to do integrated clasps without having to worry about matching colors or styles between the findings and the thread. Today I’m going to show you how, as well as show off a couple bracelets I made recently.
In addition to your normal tatting supplies, you will need a single large, large-bore bead. Anything labeled a pony bead should do, and most things labeled barrel beads should do as well. If you somehow don’t have any of these on hand—I was a craftsy kid in the 90s so I have a whole box of them, sorted by color, cluttering up my craft space—you can get them by the hundreds for a couple bucks. It’s a good idea to choose one roughly the same color as your thread, if possible, but you’re going to be wrapping it completely so it doesn’t matter too much. Note: this tutorial, along with all my tatting stuff, comes from a place of needle tatting, but if you’re a shuttle tatter you can play along too—you’ll need a tapestry needle, doll needle, or similar for covering the bead, anything you can get your tatting thread through the eye of, and which isn’t much larger in diameter than the thread—no yarn needles.
First, choose a tatting pattern. Anything I’ve posted tagged “flat edging” will do well, although be aware of how wide it’ll be when you choose. So far I’ve used my crowns edging and my garden path edging. You’ll need to decide where in the pattern you want to break to insert the clasp. For the crowns edging, I started at step 7 and finished at step 3, and for the garden path, started at step 1 and ended at 8. You want the insertion point to be somewhere that a ring or chain made from that point will extend along the length of the piece, rather than off to the side, and ideally be somewhat centered.
Note: This clasp pattern is worked out for #10 thread and your standard plastic pony bead; if you are using different materials, I recommend practicing wrapping a bead first, then making sure the ring in step 1 below will go around it before putting in all the work on the bracelet. For smaller threads, add groups of 8 single stitches (one full spiral) to both sides of the first ring. See also my dragonfly pattern for another use of this ring shape.
- Ring 6ds, 32 first-half single stitches spiraling four times around the needle, 12ds, 32 second-half single stitches spiraling four times around the needle the other way, 6ds. Depending on the pattern, you may want to add picots to either or both 6ds section to secure it to the rest of the pattern. Both of my bracelets start this ring with 3ds, picot, 3ds.
- Make lace according to your pattern, starting at your start point, until you have roughly 8″ (or desired length) from tip to tip and you are at an end point in your pattern.
- If necessary, add a short length of chain or spiral chain to separate the bead from the last ring of the pattern by at least an eighth-inch or so.
- Tie a square knot between your needle and ball thread.
- You will need roughly a yard of thread on your needle. If your current needle thread is shorter than that, cut the ball thread a yard from the piece and thread that. Shuttle folks: cut a yard of thread, attached to the piece, from either your ball or shuttle, and thread that onto a tapestry or doll needle.
- Thread the bead onto the thread.
- Tie a single overhand knot between the needle thread and the thread under the bead, then pass the needle through the bead, from bottom to top (in the same direction as before) to put the knot inside the bead. There should be one loop of thread wrapping over the outside of the bead. See photo.
- Slide the bead down to the end of the tatting piece and pull the knot tight to secure it into place.
- Begin wrapping the thread around the bead: always pass the needle through the bead from bottom to top, and make sure each wrap lies straight next to its neighbors, not crossing or tangling. Keep the thread pulled tight as you work. The inside of the bore is smaller than the outside you have to cover, so the thread will bunch up on the inside and try to form gaps on the outside; just cover the gaps as necessary.
- When you’ve gotten about halfway around the bead, wrap the thread down around the outside, then pass the needle straight across the bottom of the bead, passing through the square knot if you can, wrap the thread around the outside from bottom to top, and start wrapping from the opposite side, passing the needle through the bead from top to bottom. This just makes the final tie-off easier.
- Finish up by wrapping over any gaps you see, pulling the thread tight as you do. When you can’t see the bead any more, not even by wiggling the thread around with your fingertips, you’re done. It should be getting a little full in the center of the bead, but still easy to get the needle through.
- Tie a knot between the thread you’ve been working with and the other one coming off the tatted piece. I like holding both ends together and tying a single overhand knot in both.
- Cut both threads to a few inches length, if necessary, and thread them both onto the needle together. Pass them through the bead, from bottom to top, and tug to get the knot up inside the bead. Trim close to the top of the bead.
- The clasp works by pushing the wrapped bead through the elongated ring made in step 1; the elongated shape helps prevent the bead from coming out on its own, much like a slit buttonhole.